Just after Pakistan had hit the winning runs in their opening World T20 game against India, the two captains Virat Kohli and Babar Azam broke into a friendly conversation. Little later, some Pakistan players were seen picking Indian team mentor MS Dhoni’s brain. Outside noise notwithstanding, the T20 World Cup fixture between India and Pakistan was played in excellent spirit. Though, later at the post-match press conference a couple of questions from the Pakistan reporters had the India captain startled.
Reporter: Regarding the selection of the team, Ishan Kishan played very well in the warm-up matches. Do you think he could have done better than Rohit Sharma?
Kohli: It’s a very brave question. What do you think, sir?
Reporter: I’m asking you, sir.
Kohli: Will you drop Rohit Sharma from T20 internationals? You’ll drop Rohit Sharma? Do you know what he did in the last game that we played? Yeah? Unbelievable. If you want controversy, please tell me before so I can answer accordingly.
The India captain held his head in his hand, struggling to contain his amusement.
— T20 World Cup (@T20WorldCup) October 25, 2021
Reporter: Was India a bit overconfident against Pakistan because obviously India has been winning the ICC events. Was it like India didn’t concentrate on the Pakistan match and they were concentrating on the other matches?
Kohli: You know, it’s amazing what the realities are and what ideas people have on the outside. I just wish they could put on our cricket kit and actually walk into the field and understand what pressure is. You don’t go out there to take anything lightly, especially a team like Pakistan who on their day can beat anyone in the world. This is a game that has to be respected, and we are a team that definitely respects the game, and we do not think that winning one game is the end of the world, and no other team should think that. This is a very big game. Cricket is beyond and above anyone else, any individual, and we definitely respect the game. We never take any opposition lightly, neither do we differentiate between oppositions. That’s how we play our cricket.
— Ayush Ranjan Jha (@ayushranjanjha) October 24, 2021
India’s big loss had triggered extreme reactions. After defeating Pakistan 12 times in different World Cups, India had finally tasted defeat. Kohli had no qualms in admitting the opponents’ supremacy on the night. Toss played a factor, as evening dew made things difficult for the Indian bowlers in the second half. Kohli didn’t use that as an excuse.
“We could not even get dot balls in because the pitch was obviously providing a big pace for the batsman to work with. The slower balls were not holding up as much,” said the India skipper.
One positive for India is a seven-day gap before they play their next match on October 31 against New Zealand. “I think it works really well for us from all points of view. Knowing that we have played a full-fledged season already, we played the IPL, which is very high-octane by itself in testing conditions here in the UAE, and then we came into the World Cup. So for us these big breaks are definitely something that’s going to help us as a team to be in the prime physical condition that we need to be to play this high intensity tournament,” said Kohli.
About the team taking the knee before the game, he said: “That was communicated to us by the management. The Pakistan team agreed to pay their tribute towards the same cause, and then we accepted our side of things, as well. Yeah, that’s how it was decided.”
India are good at bouncing back from bad losses, case in point the 36 all out in Adelaide last year or the innings defeat at Leeds earlier this year. As former Pakistan captain Asif Iqbal told this paper before the India-Pakistan match here, he would still back Kohli’s troops to win the T20 World Cup even if they lost to Pakistan in their tournament opener.